Flexible working and better transport can beat the commuting blues
Average commutes are getting longer and travelling to work is getting dearer. Throw in the darker nights and bad weather and it’s no wonder that November intensifies the commuter blues.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In order to mark Commute Smart Week, which is organised by the campaign group Work Wise UK, the TUC has published new figures showing that we are spending more time just travelling to and from work. We call on employers to allow more flexible working and home working, and for the government to invest more money into transport.
It’s taking us longer to get to work
The average worker now spends 57 minutes a day just travelling to and from work. This has increased by just under 3 minutes over the past 5 years, which adds up to another 10 hours a year spent commuting.
There are also more people doing long commute journeys. 3.7 million Workers now spend two hours or more every day travelling to work and home, 900,000 more than in 2010. We think that stagnant real wages and rising house prices and rents are making it harder for people to move closer to their work.
More employers should encourage flexible working which would cut congestion and make the commuting journey more bearable. They should also encourage more home working, which saves employees time and money and helps employers to recruit, retain and motivate their staff.
There is more flexible working and home working than there used to be, but the growth is far too slow. The opportunities provided by 21st century technology are still all too often being constrained by 20th century styles of work organisation.
The UK is not investing enough in transport
The UK invests less in transport infrastructure than the other developed countries. This is not just making commuting harder but also holding back our economy by making transport slower and more expensive than it should be.
The government has a chance to do something about this when the Chancellor makes his autumn statement on future spending plans next Wednesday. Spending more to upgrade transport infrastructure would be a good investment in the future of our nation, and in these uncertain times that is exactly what the government needs to do.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:
None of us like spending ages getting to and from work. Long commutes eat in to our family time and can be bad for our working lives too.
Employers cannot turn a blind eye to this problem. More home and flexible-working could easily be introduced to allow people to cut their commutes and save money.
But if we are to reduce the hell of traffic jams and train delays, ministers need to invest more in public transport and our roads. Next week’s Autumn Statement is the perfect opportunity to do this.